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Self-driving technology could alter car accident claims

A future in which self-driving cars occupy the roads in New Jersey could substantially change the nature of personal injury claims after accidents. An insurance expert with four decades of claims experience predicted that product liability claims could make up the bulk of legal actions when injured victims want to recover damages.

He said that currently most lawsuits target one or more drivers in an accident claim. In an accident with a self-driving vehicle, the parts manufacturers and software developers might be assigned liability. Problems identified with sensors on vehicles or the crash avoidance algorithm could expose automakers and technology companies to responsibility for crashes.

Other issues that could complicate legal claims include shared ownership of expensive self-driving vehicles and the potential for hacking. Liability might need to be apportioned among multiple vehicle owners. Vehicles taken over by hackers might lead to vehicle thefts or even kidnappings because a person could be locked in a vehicle and transported by remote control.

Changes in the technological landscape of transportation could alter employment rates for insurance adjusters and change the skill set needed by accident investigators. Attorneys will likely continue to play a role in litigating claims for victims, as they do today. A person injured by a reckless driver might choose to enlist the services of an attorney when making a personal injury claim. An attorney could document the negligence that caused the accident and the financial damages suffered by the person. These services might allow the person to focus on recovering from physical and mental injuries because the attorney could handle communications with an insurance company.

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